The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★★

(My review for Willamette Week. I should probably wait until it's published on 12/12 to post this, but I need as many people as possible to support THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR this opening weekend!!!)

"Love has limits."
"It should not."

In 2016, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos broke into the English language cinema scene with his sci-fi romcom, The Lobster. 2017 brought his sickening, amoral horror, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. This year, the auteur is trying his hand at a lesbian period dramedy. More accessible than his previous polarizing work, his steadfast commitment to the uncanny remains as tenacious as ever.

The Favourite is a salacious tale of lust, ambition, and above all, power. Set in 18th century England, Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) palace is shaken up when her right-hand woman/clandestine courtesan Duchess Sarah’s (Rachel Weisz) disgraced younger cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives looking for work. At first sensitive and bookish, she soon realizes she must shed her integrity in order to effectively earn the Queen’s highly covetable favor.

Scheming quietly, she delicately pokes pinprick perforations into the monarchy’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, the blunt, dominating Sarah refuses to indulge in insincere games: “I have a thing for the weak,” she asserts to her rival with a sinister smile. It’s easy to root for both of these shady ladies.

But it’s Colman who prevails with the stand-out performance -- simultaneously revolting, hilarious, and heart-wrenching as the gout-ridden Queen, she screeches at her subjects with a pitch-perfect marriage of shrillness and desperation.

The script is as tight and intricately crafted as the formidable actress’s corsets, complemented by the dissonant, piano-heavy score that punctuates each zinger -- the bourgeois equivalent of a rim-shot. There’s something whimsical about watching characters in ornate period costume swearing, and the disorienting fisheye lens only emphasizes the ridiculousness of this era. Once again, Lanthimos has proven his right to firmly reign as the King of Arthouse Absurdity.

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